Nick Saban finds himself in an awkward position as a hero-turned-villain now being honored in Louisiana. The Alabama coach and former LSU coach is being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame 20 years after he took over a struggling program and transformed it into a national champion.

Saban even admits to being a little surprised to receive the honor.

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“I’m thrilled and honored,” Saban said, according to NOLA.com. “It is a privilege to be joining so many great people in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, especially because of the great relationships we built there. I’m very, very flattered by this.”

Saban is obviously the headliner in a 2020 class that includes football players Joe Horn and Charles “Peanut” Tillman, men’s basketball’s Kerry Kittles and Lou Dunbar, women’s basketball’s Angela Turner, bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman and outdoor entrepreneur Phil Robertson.

They were selected by a 35-person panel of Louisiana Sports Writers Association members. Saban is the first active coach not coaching in Louisiana to be elected to the hall.

“I’ll be there,” Saban said. “Our time in Louisiana was very special, and again, I am tremendously honored.”

Saban left Michigan State for LSU in 2000, and delivered an 8-4 record and Peach Bowl victory in his first season, which snapped a string of seven losing seasons for the program. Saban then coached the school’s first SEC championship since 1988 and first Sugar Bowl victory since 1968 the following season and, in 2003, the Tigers’ first national championship since 1958, a by a 21-14 victory against Oklahoma in the BCS title game.

After the 2004 season Saban left LSU with a 48-16 record to become the coach of the Miami Dolphins. But after only two seasons there, he returned to the SEC, this time at Alabama. Alabama has won eight straight against LSU dating back to the 2012 BCS title game, however, the Tigers have enjoyed unprecedented success otherwise with a 144-33 record in all other games since 2005 with another national title under 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Les Miles in 2007.

In large part, that record of accomplishment is because of the institutional changes Saban demanded – and got – when he was hired – an academic center, a football operations building and increased funding for assistants and recruiting among other items.

Tiger Stadium’s seating capacity had been increased to 91,000 in the year Saban arrived. It is officially now at 102,321.

“I feel a strong sense of pride about all of that,” Saban said. “A lot of the ideas of how we could do it and how we could follow through with it came from (chancellor) Mark Emmert and (athletics director) Skip Bertman realizing that we had to have a revenue stream for facility improvements that included things like personal seat licenses.

“Because of that we were able to make improvements to the facilities and do a lot of things that enhanced the chances of LSU being competitive in the future. It was the right thing to do for LSU and everyone involved in the program.”